Land Without Evil

Sky Candy's latest production piles on so much spectacle that it's difficult to see the story


Land Without Evil

Stateside at the Paramount, 719 Congress, 474-1221
Through Dec. 16
Running time: 1 hr., 45 min.

My first encounter with aerial arts company Sky Candy occurred last year when I attended The Red Shoes, the troupe's inaugural production. I was especially impressed by the in-your-face nature with which Hans Christian Andersen's classic tale had been interpreted for the air. Wonderfully framed by the raw aesthetic of the ND at 501 Studios, the company's debut had clearly been given much detailed thought with regard to both development and execution; it was artistic, intimate, precise, and fresh. And the memory of that afternoon caused me to look forward with excitement to the company's newest piece, a much-anticipated adaptation of Matthew Pallamary's acclaimed Land Without Evil: A Novel. Sky Candy, it seemed, was seeking to expand its horizon with a production that would play Stateside at the Paramount, a venue exponentially larger than its previous abode. But in this case, it may be that bigger isn't always better.

So sprawling and multifaceted is Sky Candy's latest production that one might call it a "10-ring circus." Indeed, so much candy is offered up at any moment that the observer's dental bill risks reaching the heights of the aerial apparatuses themselves. It's all just too much to take in at once, with spectacle piled on spectacle piled on more spectacle so that the narrative – the ostensible soul of the piece – is almost completely obscured. The friend who attended with me commented afterward that she had read the plot synopsis in her program multiple times during intermission and still didn't have a strong sense of what was happening. Add to the dizzying array an urgent need for acting coaching, and the goings-on became even fuzzier. Questionable lighting choices didn't help matters in this regard, either; presumably to accommodate the gorgeous (though at times distracting) projection work that provides the production's backdrop, the lighting is sparse and dim. When all is said, danced, and done, a premise and production with loads of potential overloaded itself, and the seeming lack of a unified force resulted in a jagged, segmented juxtaposition of disparate elements competing for attention.

It's something that's happened to all of us who are involved in the production of theatre. We've been afforded the exciting opportunity to perform in a space much larger and better equipped than many, and larger-than-life ideas begin to run away with themselves, spiraling to out-of-control proportions. When the time comes to move into that space, we find ourselves in a race with time. Everything must be completed and polished, and before we know it, we're down to the wire with not enough accomplished. We wanted to incorporate every cool idea, and it resulted in a hodgepodge. We've spent all of our precious dress rehearsal time focused on technical issues, left with little or no time to address fundamental concerns such as acting, flow, and pace. Every company, every director, and every performer can recount one such instance from his or her past, often more. I know nothing of Sky Candy's process leading up to Saturday night's opening, but I'd venture to guess that it could have been a scenario similar to this. From my experience with The Red Shoes, I know the heights to which this company can soar, but perhaps there's such a thing as too wide a sky.

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Land Without Evil, Austin theatre, Sky Candy

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